Summer Pasta Salad

Summer Pasta Salad1

What do hot, hot, HOT summer days make you think of? For me, it’s a number of things.

Growing up and eating MASSIVE amounts of watermelon with my grandpa.

Being on summer vacation from school and getting to wake up whenever the heck I want. (I’m an ‘adult’ with a regular ‘job’ now, so this doesn’t happen anymore.)

The song “Summer Nights” from Grease.

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The sound of the ice cream truck music playing in my grandmother’s neighborhood.

Spike Lee’s movie, “Do the Right Thing”.

The handful of summer camps/programs that my Mom signed me up for…neither of which I ever liked.

Cedar Point trips.

Beautiful, cool(er) sunsets.

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Now how about food? I know that for me, I have “Summer Memories”, and then apart from that, I have “Summer Food Memories.”

Watermelon. Eating watermelon wedge after watermelon wedge until I start burping- that’s how I know when to stop.

Ice cream. One of the only things that I like about extreme summer heat is that it gives me an excuse to eat ice cream. It’s not like I ever NEED an excuse. I definitely eat ice cream in the dead of winter as well, but…still.

Popsicles. Not the watery kind in the plastic wrappers; REAL popsicles with chunks of fruit that are so thick and creamy, you can chew them.

Barbecue. Nothing replaces  the flavor that a charcoal grill can inject into a piece of meat. Nothing.

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Finally, there’s pasta salad.

Pasta salad has gotta be one of the most quintessential summer foods there is. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I don’t know if I even WANT to know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I’ve tried lots of different kinds of pasta salads in the past that experimented with different flavors, including this VERY delicious Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad. However, this recipe sticks to the ‘basics’ of pasta salad, resulting in a dish that is pretty much guaranteed to please everybody.

I’ve included all of the ingredients that I personally prefer in my pasta salad, but should you try this out, feel free to add or swap out stuff that you or your family prefers, like cheese, olives, or meat.

I think it’ll make for a pretty cool summer memory ūüėČ

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Summer Pasta Salad


Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 green , yellow or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped and undrained
  • 1 cup yellow canned corn, drained
  • 3 mini salad cucumbers, thinly sliced

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

 

Directions

Combine all of the salad dressing ingredients together in a glass measuring cup with a whisk.. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

In a large bowl, toss all of the salad ingredients together, then drizzle in your desired amount of the dressing.

Refrigerate pasta salad for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld, but preferably overnight. Serve chilled.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese Chicken Salad4

I went to a popular restaurant in our city for breakfast with my mom and sisters one day a few years back. It was a pretty good day, I was in a pretty good mood, and ready to eat some food that was more than pretty good (actually it’s fantastic, so if you’re ever in the Lansing MI area then make sure you go to Sophia’s House of Pancakes).

When we were seated, I noticed that there was an elderly couple that had also been recently seated in the booth just behind ours. The woman was sitting with her back to me, while the man was sitting on the opposite side, facing me. As well sat down, he smiled at me. I thought it was a very nice, kind smile, and even though the strangers I’ve come across normally didn’t throw out smiles like that, I decided to go ahead and throw a great big smile back at him. I didn’t really think too much of it after that, focusing my attention on ordering m food and engaging in conversation with my family.

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I think it was a few minutes after the food we’d all ordered had come out- we were about mid way through, when suddenly our waitress comes over to our table. She bends down and starts murmuring to us quietly, “Excuse me: I know this is our of nowhere, but I’ve just been told to let you now that your meal’s been completely paid for.”

TimeoutwaitWHAT?!

That was about the collective response at our table. When we asked her if she was sure about that, she nodded and pointed across the restaurant, “Yes: it was that gentlemen over there. He said that he just wanted to cover your bill for you because of how nicely you,” She nodded at me, “Smiled at him when you came in.”

You guys, I’m not the type of person who gets embarrassed easily. I think I’ve blushed a grand total of three times in my entire life.

Well, that was one of them.

At hearing that, my face got all hot and pink, I started grinning like an idiot and I paused long enough to swallow my mouthful of pancakes to choke out a sheepish, “Oh my God, are you serious?!” I was in a state of mild shock.

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I looked up to find the elderly gentleman and his wife and saw that they were just then leaving the restaurant. He waved at all of us as we shouted out a collective, stunned “thank you!”. I still remember the way that he grinned at me and mouthed, “Keep smiling!” as they went out the doors.

It’s the year 2015. Everywhere I look, I see people posting about New Years resolutions to accomplish things that (if we’re being completely honest with ourselves) are almost entirely superficial. I’l be upfront with you all and even admit that I’ve made similar resolutions to myself in past years. It’s easy to focus on what’s ‘wrong’ with you as a person and resolve to change it. Heck, that’s not always a bad thing.

However, this year I’m hoping for more moment like that day in Sophia’s House of Pancakes where I come across people like that kind elderly man and his wife that aren’t too old, jaded or bitter to notice and value the important of seemingly little things like kind smiles and random acts of generosity to strangers. I’m also hoping that this year I can do more to take my focus off of myself and be like that elderly man was in noticing the beautiful things of life that are far too often taken for granted. I believe that days and moments like the one I just shared are a large part of why we’re here on this Earth in the first place. They make the world seem brighter and filled with hope. They’re what’s really important in life.

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I’m still keeping things light and healthy this week with a salad that’s become a new favorite of mine. Although the recipe is originally for chicken, we are just coming off of the holidays and if you still have some leftover turkey in your fridge (like I do) then you can definitely sub that in. The dressing is both tangy from the vinegar and ginger, and also earthy from the flavor of the peanut butter. The chipotle gives it a nice little kick of heat in the aftertaste. If you can’t find dry crunchy Chow Mein noodles where you are (they’re usually in the Foreign Cuisine aisle of the grocery store) then using peanuts would also give the same ‘crouton’ contrast of textures that you’re looking for in a salad.

I’m taking this salad to Fiesta Friday #49 this week, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by¬†Mr Fitz @CookingwithMrFitz and Kaila @GF Life 24/7. Happy New Year everyone!

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

 

Chinese Chicken Salad

Recipe Courtesy of Bobby Flay

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle pepper puree
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 pound snow peas, julienned
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • Handful of Chinese crunchy chow mein noodles

Directions

1. Whisk together the vinegar, peanut butter, ginger, chipotle pepper puree, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and canola oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2. Combine cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro, and green onion in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine.

3. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the shredded chicken and chow mein noodles.

Chicken Shawarma Fattoush Salad

Schwarma Fattoush Salad1

There a few foods for me that- if they were actual living and breathing men- I would almost definitely be having a torrid love affair with. That’s how much I love them.

First, there’s pancakes. Pancakes are the bad boy- the guy I KNOW is so bad for me. So, so SO very bad. (Like all the sugar and carbs in the pancakes that are so terrible for my thighs and derriere.) But he’s also the one that can make my entire day just by making an appearance. He’s the one I can’t turn down or resist. He’s so bad, that he starts to actually feel good. For me, if pancakes were a man, he’d be like Johnny Depp, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Tom Hardy all rolled into one. Seriously, ¬†how am I supposed to resist that?

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Then there’s the iced sugar cookie. This is the ‘older guy’;very handsome and sweet, classic, traditional and dependable. Like a fine wine, no matter how old he is, I never get tired of him- he gets better with age.¬†He’s great in just about every way, but still probably not the one I should be with just because he’s so much older than me ( just like I probably shouldn’t indulge in sugar cookies all the time). But I’m still drawn to him because, hey he’s awesome. The iced sugar cookie for me in “guy-form” would be somewhere in between George Clooney, Idris Elba and Jimmy Smitts- thus, explaining my ongoing obsession with it.

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Then, there’s chicken shawarma and fattoush salad. Good news: this is the ‘good guy’. The ‘nice’ guy. The one I don’t have to feel guilty for being hooked on, because he’s actually great for me in a lot of different ways. Stable, wholesome, considerate and just full of good stuff. I can give it all I have with him and take all I can get because I know it won’t hurt later. Chicken shawarma and fattoush are kinda like that too-I’m hooked on them, but I don’t ever have to feel guilty for craving/eating them because hey, there’s never any harm in eating white meat and veggies, right? Yeah, chicken shawarma and fattoush salad is like Ryan Gosling or Chris Hemsworth. (Sigh).

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And now that I’ve beaten that metaphor to death, I may as well get on with the actual point of this post.

Chobani yogurt is just awesome,isn’t it? Not just because of the taste, but also because of the ¬†versatility of the yogurt as an ingredient- you CAN do more with it than just open the lid and dip into it with a spoon. Right now Chobani is holding a #MadeWithChobani Project that shows all the different ways that yogurt can be used in every day cooking.¬†It unites food bloggers in a collective effort to use¬†Chobani yogurt to create a healthy, but still delicious recipe. I definitely wanted to be apart of this project; I thought about doing something sweet- let’s face it, it’s easier to make a sweet dish with yogurt, especially since Chobani has so many delicious sweet flavors. However, I eventually decided against it, opting instead for a more savory application. This is what I finally came up with, and I have to say, I’m really happy with how it turned out.

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The best chicken shawarma and fattoush salad I’ve ever had comes from an awesome Middle Eastern restaurant in Ann Arbor. It’s just so, so, SO good. Because I don’t live near Ann Arbor, I don’t get to eat there very often, but I have to say that this recipe gives me a pretty good -tide-me-over. What makes this distinctive from the restaurant is that instead of keeping the dishes separate from each other, I combined them together in one healthy, delicious salad.

This dish just wouldn’t be what it turned out to be without the Greek yogurt (and I’m not just saying that). It makes the chicken SO moist and tender. ¬†So don’t skimp and buy some cheap, non-name brand yogurt. It’s not gonna come out the same. You need a good, creamy, high-quality yogurt for the shawarma marinade.

For all of you that are on Twitter, feel free to check out the hashtag #MadewithChobani for some other awesome recipes! Also, if YOU have some ideas for creative, healthy recipes using Chobani, then go ahead and visit¬†Chobani.com¬†to find out how you can join the¬†#MadeWithChobani Project as well ūüėČ

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Chicken Shawarma Fattoush Salad


Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

Chicken:

  • 5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 32 oz. Chobani Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup shawarma spice mix (like Ziyad)

Fattoush Salad:

  • 1 romaine heart, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 half baby cucumber, sliced into halves
  • 3/4 cup diced shawarma chicken
  • Small handful of pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 pita, toasted & broken into chips

Fattoush Dressing

  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. sumac
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 Directions

1. Combine the yogurt, lemon juice and shawarma mix in a large bowl. Place the chicken in a resealable Ziploc bag(s). Pour yogurt marinade over the chicken and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350¬į. Remove chicken from marinade, scraping off the excess. Discard marinade. Spray a large glass baking dish with cooking spray and place in chicken breasts. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until thickest part of breasts reach temp of 165¬į.

3. Allow chicken to rest for about 10 minutes out of the oven, reserving ALL of the juices it gives off while baking. Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over high heat with a few tbsp. of vegetable oil. Slice the chicken breasts against the grain into small strips or chunks and immediately toss in the reserved pan juices. Saute chicken in hot skillet, about 3-4 minutes in a single layer until the edges just begin to turn brown and crispy. (You may need to work in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan).

4. For Salad Dressing: Combine water and sumac in a small jar or bowl and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Add remaining dressing ingredients, taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

5. For Salad: Combine all ingredients and toss with desired amount of dressing. Serve.

Southron Spinach and Plum Salad

Spinach Salad1

Game of Thrones Series Week 3

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! I hope you all¬†get to spend some time with the mothers or mother figures in your lives and make them feel appreciated. They deserve it.

It’s time for another GoT recipe you guys! I hope you’ve been keeping up with the series, if not I’ll post the recipes that I’ve done so far at the end of this post so you can play catch up. Before we get to the food, I’ll say a few words about my favorite parts of last Sunday’s episode:

  • I know that they’re a crazy family, but I just love the scenes between the Lannisters, especially when Tywin is involved. He’s undoubtedly a bad person, but he’s got a strong dose of pragmatism and resolve to survive at all costs that definitely makes him one of the show’s strongest and charismatic characters. So the Lannister’s are out of dough, huh? Never thought that day would come. As I watched the scene between Tywin and Cersei, I thought it was a great¬†conversation between a rich father facing bankruptcy and his privileged, spoiled daughter who’s always been given everything she wants. I loved Tywin explaining the “facts of life” to Cersei and making her aware that she has to ‘take one for the team’ so to speak in order for them to survive as a family.
  • I’m really curious whether or not¬†Daenerys is really going to get the epic battle for the Iron Throne that she’s dreaming of when it seems like every episode just puts up another roadblock/reason for why it’s not her time to invade¬†Westeros and “take what is hers by blood and fire” (God, she used to get on my nerves when was forever saying that in season 2). I know that because she has the dragons, we’re going to get some kind of fancy special effects-laden scene, but I’m not altogether convinced that GoT is going to end with her as the supreme ruler of everything and everyone.

Spinach Salad2

  • Then of course, there’s Sansa- poor, poor Sansa. Now, not only is she dealing with Little Finger ( who is not only responsible for Joffrey’s death, but pretty much…everything that has to do with the major fallout ofKing Jon Arryn’s Hand- which is also the entire reason that the plotline of GoT got started in the first place) she’s also stuck with her crazy aunt who still harbors ¬†jealousy for her mother and all the things Catelyn had that she never could. And, she has to get married AGAIN to her younger cousin. Sheesh. Sansa just can’t catch a break to save her life. I have a feeling that Sansa is going to end up doing something very drastic and heroic to save herself when this is all said and done- she’s been through too much without having the opportunity to defend or protect herself from all these people who keep wanting to harm her. I hope to God that one of those drastic things is shooting an arrow through Littlefinger’s head.
  • I really liked the short, but powerful scene between Cersei and Oberon. I don’t feel pity for her generally, but I felt for her situation as woman¬†trapped in a ‘man’s world’ while still struggling to maintain her dignity and self esteem- even if it means causing pain and abuse to those weaker than she. I’m still thinking about that line: “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.” It gives me chills because of just how true it really is
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  • Finally an episode with Bran scenes that I can get into! Their escape from Craster’s Keep was pure suspense and satisfaction-especially Bran using his powers through Hodor to get them out of there. Now I finally see the merit behind all those creepy times that his eyes roll back in his head and he sees those weird visions. (Random fact: rolling eyeballs give me pure goosebumps. I just don’t like looking at it.)
  • Too bad Bran and Jon didn’t get to see each other again. I feel like a Stark family reunion (what’s left of them anyway) would be full of so much feels and emotion after all they’ve been though. At least Jon got to see the direwolf again. And at least that horrible Karl jerk got his- from both Jon and one of the women he’d been victimizing. It was a solid call to burn that hell hole to ground. Burn it and bury it forever.

Spinach Salad4

Guys! I’ve made a discovery- turns out, there’s a Game of Thrones Cookbook. A real one. Actually more than one- there’s an official one: A Feast of Ice and Fire, then there’s an unofficial one : The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook. I was at an outlet store in my hometown a few weeks ago, and I came across the unofficial cookbook on a shelf priced for only $3.99 (that was marked down from an original price of $19.95). Now, you really can’t beat that, can you? So of course, I bought the cookbook (…along with a few others that were also too discounted to not buy. I collect cookbooks like some people collect stamps; there’s never too many. Don’t judge me.)

Question: what IS the actual difference between Official and Unofficial in this context anyway? I read the caption on the cover of the book that reads: “This book is unofficial and unauthorized/ It is not authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO.”

So…does that mean that the other is authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO? How does that even work? I don’t understand.

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Anyway, official or unofficial, this cookbook is pretty awesome, guys. The recipes are the perfect blend between medieval and still modern enough for the average cook to be able to easily recreate them. I’ve already made a few that I’m super pumped to review and share with you, the first of which being this delightful salad. I’ve never had a salad with plums in it before, but now that I have, I’m pretty much sold on making it a regular occurrence for when I eat salad from here on out. It adds such a special sweetness that is evenly balanced with the acidity of the lemon and orange flavors in the tangy dressing. Throw in some diced chicken or other type of protein, and you’ve got one winner of a meal here.

One of the things I love best about the cookbook is the little introductions that they author gives at the beginning of every recipe that serve to link them to their relevance to the book series. I thought that I could include it in my posting of the recipe here as well.

Thanks for tuning into this week’s¬†¬†GoT post- stay tuned for next week’s recipe. I’ll give you a hint into two words: Baratheon. Pork. ¬† ūüėČ

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

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Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Recipe Courtesy of The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook by Alan Kistler

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

“After a fine day or tourney, Sansa joins the royal court at the riverside for a feast. It’s a magical evening where simply joys and the beauty of the night seem all the more enhanced. This salad of spinach and plums is both healthy yet provides a sweetness to complement the flavor of the night for the young Sansa, who has no idea how far away such lovely times will seem in the months to come.” (A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29 -Sansa)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, torn
  • 4 plums, pitted and sliced into wedges
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped basil

Directions

1. Arrange the spinach and plum wedges on 4 plates.

2. Whisk vinegar, oil, juices, zests, salt, pepper, and basil in a bowl.

3. Drizzle approximately 1/3 of dressing over spinach and plums on plates. Remaining dressing may be refrigerated.

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